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Recent Listening: Daniel Szabo, Chris Potter

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Daniel Szabo
Daniel Szabo Trio Meets Chris Potter, Contribution (BMC). Szabo is a 34-year-old pianist and composer with impressive academic and performance credentials and awards in Hungary and the US. One of his professors at the New England Conservatory was Bob Brookmeyer, who sent a copy of Szabo's CD with a note strongly suggesting that his former student deserves close attention.

This album commands close attention.

Szabo's compositions have lines with binding energy that urges forward motion, and chord structures of challenging densities, prompting Brookmeyer to refer to it as highly evolved music." Throughout, currents and undercurrents of Eastern European rhythms and minor harmonies inform both writing and improvisation. Szabo, bassist Matyas Szandai and drummer Ferenc Nemeth previously recorded with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel in an album I have yet to hear. It seems clear that it takes musicians of Rosenwinkel's and Potter's virtuosity and openness to ideas to navigate in Szabo's deep, sometimes stormy waters. Daniel Szabo. Conversely, it requires musicians of these three Hungarians' advanced techniques and jazz sensibilities to hold their own with Potter, a soloist of daunting power, swing and imagination. His work is riveting on tenor and soprano saxophones, and bass clarinet in the nostalgic piece called Melodic." Szabo's piano playing, founded in post-Bill Evans harmony and dynamics, is of a piece with the advanced concepts of his writing. His exchanges and counterpoint with Potter are natural, unforced.

This album was recorded in Budapest. Potter's domestic ties to Hungary seem to take him there frequently. If that means we may expect further collaboration between him and the Szabo trio, so much the better. This is, indeed, highly evolved--and highly satisfying--music. Here are Szabo, Szandai, Nemeth and Potter at their CD release party in an extended version of “Attack of the Intervals," the first piece on the album.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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